Spiritual Cockroaches
January 12, 2004 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Spiritual Cockroaches the life and work of K. Ungeheuer

Ungeheuer wrote short stories. Very short stories. Some are no more than a couple of sentences. The longest of them barely fills a half dozen pages. Ungeheuer explained his penchant for short short fiction in an interview with Jared Green in 1970:
"There's something enigmatic about the economy of these short pieces. Something about the lack of context that forces the reader to fill in the larger picture. I don't care about plotting a story, characterization or setting. I'm looking for a feeling, an instant in time. An uncomfortable floating instant, with no sense of anything that may have come to pass before it."
posted by tenseone (18 comments total)
That Dog Has Fleas.
3(16) has fleas.
48 has fleas.
2(24) has 63.
4(3) weighs 75=23
3(16) weighs 67 little.
Your 16 weighs very little.
Your head weighs very little.
posted by clavdivs at 7:11 PM on January 12, 2004

These are great--thanks, and I can't believe he was published by Schwitters in merz--how cool!
posted by amberglow at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2004

Good link - those stories are excellent, and somewhat unsettling.
posted by Monster_Zero at 7:31 PM on January 12, 2004

Thanks for the link! Though I have no Ungeheuer info, I will point anyone who's interested to more minimalist fiction: I have found the written work of John Cage to be fun and interesting.
posted by adzuki at 7:33 PM on January 12, 2004

Anyone read any Hoshi Shin'ichi? He is the master of short-short fiction in Japanese. If you read Japanese (which admittedly, is a rather big if), you should definitely check him out. I think there are a few stories of his translated into english floating around the web.
posted by chl at 7:46 PM on January 12, 2004

dang it. I had the idea to do something like this a few weeks ago. it was gonna be a book called "VERY Short Stories"
posted by mcsweetie at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2004

clavdivs, you have some explaining to do.
posted by wobh at 8:53 PM on January 12, 2004

do it anyway, mcsweet...a good very short story is hard to find. (and we all have time to read em)
posted by amberglow at 9:25 PM on January 12, 2004

Barry Yourgrau seems to me like heir apparent to Ungeheur's style. Although he mainly promotes himself as a spoken word performer, his short stories mix the everyday and the fantastic with the logic of dreams. Check out his books, Wearing Dad's Head and A Man Jumps Out of An Airplane.
posted by Ereneta at 10:12 PM on January 12, 2004

This is a fascinating link - I lean to appreciating the weird vignette...very much... and loved reading about this man.

posted by RubberHen at 10:47 PM on January 12, 2004

Maybe not "very short", but the sci-fi short stories of Frederic Brown are my favorite shorts in the genre.
posted by Goofyy at 11:48 PM on January 12, 2004

This is good.
posted by plep at 12:03 AM on January 13, 2004

"A labyrinth of scrimshawed gears that were yellowed with age and yet the tendon which formed the throbbing spring was still fresh and pink even in the dim light of the bar"

that is a wonderful piece of description. can anyone explain this theory to me in a few simple sentence or paragraph. I no good with math. interesting stuff tenseone.
posted by clavdivs at 9:09 AM on January 13, 2004

Uh, you know it's a fiction, right? Just checking...
posted by jmcnally at 9:10 AM on January 13, 2004

a rouse and he "lived' in Portugal.

even better.

Gestalt Fiction.
posted by clavdivs at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2004

[Wow, great link.]
posted by callmejay at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2004

Beat me to it, jmcnally. But I didn't even see the page you linked; I was going to call bullshit because all links on the internet point to the "Spiritual Cockroaches" page and because the word ungeheuer, although a genuine German name, is well known to me from the first sentence of Kafka's "Metamorphosis": "Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheuren Ungeziefer verwandelt" [emphasis added; in Neugroschel's translation, "One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin"]. Since despite the vagueness of the actual word Kafka used, people tend to think of Gregor as becoming a cockroach, it was just too much of a coincidence.

For wonderfully absurd short-short stories, I highly recommend Daniil Kharms.
posted by languagehat at 1:27 PM on January 13, 2004

One, Two, Three.
Buckle My Shoe.

(My vote for one of the best very short stories ever.)
posted by kablam at 6:59 PM on January 13, 2004

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